Mister Pterodactyl
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Do you get lists of jokes emailed to you? I do. Fortunately I don't get so many that it becomes a pain in the ass. It's occurred to me that I never, repeat never, pass them on.

So here's one I got the other day.

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%?
Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?
We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over
100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these

is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%
Boy, this is starting to sound like a Covey seminar, BUT, read on!!

B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T !
2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%
AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can then conclude with mathematical certainty that While Hard
work and knowledge will get you close, and, Attitude will get you
there, Bullshit and Ass kissing will put you over the top.

Instead of forwarding it to everyone on my address list, I'll put it here so everyone can see it. By the way, I have no idea what a 'Covey seminar' is.
I meant to do this yesterday, but...

A couple days ago (scroll down a couple posts) I noted that Randy Graf, Arizona state legislator, has a Green Bay Packers helmet in his office. Things I Should've Thought Of Department: Old Whig emailed the guy, and the guy wrote him back. Cool.
Friday, May 28, 2004
I occasionally like to start clicking randomly on other people's blogrolls; never know what you could find. Instapundit is a good place for this. I don't know how he picks them, but he's got a nice long list of blogs. So, from Instapundit I found Robin Roberts, who immediately directed me to this Tim Blair post, which promptly knocked me out of my chair. Go read it. It's hilarious.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
I’ve been following the story about the Japanese who were kidnapped by North Korean agents pretty closely. Of course it’s not news any more, but at the time I was really surprised to learn that one of them had married an American.

On January 5th, 1965, Charles Robert Jenkins, a 24-year-old army sergeant, was leading a patrol near the Korean demilitarized zone. He told his men that he heard a noise and left them to investigate. He disappeared. The U.S. government says that Jenkins crossed the DMZ and defected. His relatives back in North Carolina say he was abducted and brainwashed.

The army says Jenkins left behind four notes indicating he intended to defect, and that ten months earlier he had been reduced in rank as punishment for an unspecified infraction. Some of Jenkins’ family members dispute the existence of the notes and say that there was no sign of depression in his behavior (they’re circulating a petition on the net to have him exonerated). In North Korea, Jenkins taught English and performed in propaganda movies.

Jenkins was the fourth American serviceman to (allegedly) defect. The others are Larry Abshire (May 1962), James Dresnok (August 1962), and Jerry Parrish (December 1963). Two others, Ryan Sup Chung (1979), and Joseph White (1982), are believed to be dead. [How do they know that?]

In 1980 Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, one of the Japanese kidnapped by NK in the 70’s. They have two daughters - Mika, 20, and Belinda, 18, both students at the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies.

In 2002, five Japanese abductees including Soga were allowed to go to Japan for a visit. The others are Yasushi Chimura and his wife, Fukie, and Kaoru Hasuike and his wife, Yukiko. NK refused to let their families go with them, expecting that would force them to return. They didn’t.

Last week Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited NK and returned with the five teenage children of the Chimuras and Hasuikes, apparently gaining their release through a promise of aid ($10 million for food and medical facilities and I’m sure that’s what Kim will use it for). Newspaper reports say that Kim let Jenkins decide whether to leave; he didn’t, fearing extradition and prosecution. Their two daughters also remain in NK.

The Japanese claim that ten more of their citizens have been abducted by NK; NK say the number is eight and that all of them are dead from natural causes. [Do you suppose death by gulag incarceration counts as ‘natural?’] Koizumi, while earning praise for bringing home the five children, has also been harshly criticized for striking a deal without pressing harder for information regarding them.

I generally disapprove of giving NK any kind of aid, but this is a very emotional issue for the Japanese. So I’m pleased that the ten have returned, and I certainly hope the rest can be accounted for. Their remains, if nothing else, could be returned to Japan (as an aside, the issue of the abductees has been a complication in the six-way nuclear talks). More importantly, I hope that Jenkins and his daughters can be convinced to leave as well. If the US government won’t reverse itself and pardon him, he will at least receive a trial.

That said, I think the government should promise not to seek extradition (I don’t know what the law is, but possibly he could be considered as having renounced his citizenship, if he’s not already, and simply barred from returning to the US). Getting them out of NK and reuniting their family is worth brushing aside a forty-year-old crime. And I’m really looking forward to the guy’s biography.

Accuracy alert: all the facts noted in this post were taken from a variety of articles that resulted from a Google search, so there.

[Note on Japanese names: in this post I’ve used given name first, family name last, as it was written in the articles where I found the information. Normally Japanese names are the other way around. Also, I don’t know if Japanese women typically take their husbands’ names or keep their own. Korean women keep theirs.]
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Watching the Jon Stewart show (technically The Daily Show With Jon Stewart but really, come on). It's a rerun, but obviously one I missed because a bit on gun control features Arizona Congressman Randy Graf, and Arizona Congressman Randy Graf has a miniature Green Bay Packers helmet in his office. Wheee.
Monday, May 24, 2004
In this post on space combat, Den Beste makes a peripheral point about heat; any energy using system is inevitably going to generate heat, and that has to be dealt with in some way. I’ve been thinking about this for some time (Buckethead’s related essay and musings on heat production also figured in).

So, as an aside from my neglected moonbase series (I really do mean to get back to that), here’s my idea:

-As heat energy warms up the hull, it’s transmitted or convected along the hull into a compartment containing water (or possibly some other substance with a lower boiling point).
-The water is heated, eventually coming to a boil and turning to steam.
-When the pressure builds up the steam is forced through holes in the compartment into a second one, where it cools, transmitting its heat energy into a radiator to be expelled into space.
-Meanwhile the steam being pushed between containers drives a turbine (similar to those found in hydroelectric dams), generating electricity to help power the ship.

-Does a system or material exist to transmit heat energy this way, and if not is it technically feasible?
-How much electricity could be generated by such a system? Would it be enough to be useful?
-Are there any substances that would be more effective than water?

I suspect the answer to the first question is 'no,' but I'll dream the dream anyway. The second two should be easy enough to research. I'll have to make some assumptions about how much energy a spaceship would need, though.

If you’re interested, I also have an idea for a sort of hyperdrive for a spaceship. It involves a giant wheel, a chocolate chip cookie, and a bionic hamster. I’m still working out some of the details.

Friday, May 21, 2004
Just a little roundup today:

First, from the I Wish I'd Thought Of That Department, Jason H. from Austin, Texas, writes to IMAO:
"Frank, have you noticed that the sky is blue with white clouds and the Israeli flag is white with blue stripes? Could it be possible that every time the Muslims look up they are reminded of the "Zionist conspiracy in the sky" and that's why they are so angry? Just wonderin', yo." Ha.

Second, things are wackier by the minute in North Korea. I have no idea what to make of this.

Third, via Den Beste, this guy thinks Starcraft would be much more enjoyable if opinion polls and friendly fire were included. He's got a point.

[For those who don't know, Starcraft is a real-time strategy computer game involving three warring races, and the player must build up his forces and coordinate attacks and defenses while his opponent does the same.]
Monday, May 17, 2004
Kim Jong Il Death Watch Update:

Nope, not yet.

“Syrian technicians accompanying unknown equipment were killed in the train explosion in North Korea on April 22, according to a report in a Japanese newspaper.
The bodies of the Syrians were taken home on May 1 by a Syrian aircraft, which had come to Pyongyang to deliver aid supplies.
The Syrians and North Koreans who transported the victims were also reportedly wearing protective suits similar to those worn by the North Korean military figures who arrived on the scene immediately after the accident, the source said.”

And then there’s this:
“Japan's Kyodo News, citing numerous diplomatic sources in Vienna, reported Saturday that the force of April 22's train explosion at the North's Ryonchon Station was about that of an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, which would have required about 800 tons of TNT -- about eight times that officially announced by North Korea.”

Links via Instapundit. Also note this, from Little Green Footballs:
"According to [a military] source, the [Syrian] technicians aboard
the train had been sent from the Syrian technical
research center called Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche
Scientific (CERS). Although CERS was established to
promote science and technology development, it is
suspected of playing a major role in Syria's weapons
of mass destruction development program.
The same source said, 'The action taken by Syria and
the DPRK indicates that the cargo was top secret
matter, which the two countries did not want to bring
out into the open.'"

Sunday, May 16, 2004
How about something a little less depressing?

It’s about time we got serious about that moon base. Allow me to get the ball rolling (or at least to pretend I am).

Keep in mind; this is not something that requires an enormous amount of money or effort right away. This project is going to take a long, long time so it’s something we can do (and plan for) incrementally.

There are three initial elements.
The space station: The International Space Station currently in orbit will serve for now, but future ones can be much less complex. All that’s needed is a living area on one end, with exercise and sanitation facilities, attached to a large bay area with (at least) two docking ports.
I’ve been considering whether the station should spin for simulated gravity. It would be preferable that the docking area not spin; it would make docking with the station a lot more difficult. Possibly just the living quarters could spin, or the entire station could spin and stop itself for docking procedures. This is adding a lot of complexity, so for now I’m using the no-spin model. The residents of the ISS are dealing with it. [Note: the ISS has a centrifuge capable of producing simulated gravity up to 2x Earth normal. Perhaps the living quarters could be located in a similar, larger centrifuge in the new station.]
Putting on spacesuits is onerous. Not only is the suit itself complicated, the air pressure inside is only one-third of Earth normal, so that lengthy preparation is needed to avoid pressure sickness (the bends). Therefore the entire station, including the docking area, will be pressurized. This will require airlocks at both docks and between the living and docking areas as a safety precaution. Low gravity in the docking area will make loading/unloading procedures easier.

Station-to-moon transport: This is the one component that’s completely new – a spaceplane capable of docking with the station and of landing on and taking off from the moon’s surface. The most important thing about this is that it will never have to enter an atmosphere (no need for aerodynamics or heat shielding), so it probably won’t resemble an airplane at all. Also, it won’t have to deal with gravity stronger than the moon’s. It will need considerable cargo space as well as room for passengers; I envision something like a larger version of the old Apollo landers.

Earth-to-station transport: a return vehicle will be necessary – the American shuttle or Russian Soyuz will serve, and the EU is in the process of developing a pilotless version – if only because the station and spaceplane will have to be manned. Most flights, though, will be carrying supplies for the lunar colonists and can be one-way. For this, I’m thinking of something similar to the old booster rockets, intended solely for lifting supplies and equipment to the space station, there to be transferred to the spaceplane for transport to the moon. All it has to do is escape Earth’s gravity and rendezvous with the station, so it probably can be unmanned, run by computer and docked by remote control. When we start sending people along with cargo, they may have to be modified to lessen the stress of acceleration.
After docking and unloading, the booster can be returned to Earth or dismantled and its parts reused, whichever is more cost efficient. I’m guessing it’ll be the latter.

Most of the technology for these components already exists, as does the expertise living and working in space. We’ll want several of each ready to go; once we’ve actually got people on the moon, we can’t have something going wrong and stranding them.

Next up, early moon colonists.

Friday, May 14, 2004
or, "I can't get off the Iraq thing."

At Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, some American soldiers committed crimes. They broke the rules. Our rules. America's people are aghast, America's leaders are angry, and we will punish those soldiers.

In another part of Iraq, the enemy decapitated an American civilian in front of TV cameras. Before that, the enemy held knives to the throats of Japanese civilians in front of TV cameras. And before that the enemy murdered an Italian civilian. Did they break the rules? Apparently not their rules. Their leaders are pleased, their comrades are pleased. They will be rewarded.

Check that. They will be punished, someday. We will punish them. That's the one thing we have in common.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
My muse has been AWOL lately, and the writing is not going well. Thus the paucity of posts. Pardon, please. I promise prompt progress producing pithy and pertinent prose.

Oy. See what I mean? Anyway, I had Jon Stewart on just now, and his guest was Gee Dub's campaign manager! Wheee. Stewart tries so hard to be fair to people who you know he doesn't agree with. It's hilarious.

But that's not my point. During a commercial break, an ad for the movie 'Mean girls' came on. Now, I like ogling cute girls as much as the next guy The next heterosexual guy, anyway. Or hey, homosexual woman ('next' homosexual woman seems inappropriate, doesn't it?). But I digress. The ad was aimed at people who have already seen the movie, and was urging them to go see it again. I hate that. The last movie I recall doing it was 'Spiderman' (take another spin!) and I hated it then too.

This is where my mind's at lately.
Monday, May 10, 2004
I'm gonna break down and add my comments about the Abu Ghraib incidents.

From an NYT article, republished in my local paper:
"In theory, the battalion's specialty was guarding enemy prisoners of war, a task that was expected to be a major logistical problem. In fact, few of the 1,000 reservists of the 320th had been trained to do that, and fewer still knew how to run a prison. They were deployed so quickly from the mid-Atlantic region that there was no time to get new lessons."

And from Talking Points Memo:
"hideous methods, at least reserved for restricted cases, parcelled out to unsupervised amateurs, abetted by what might be generously termed high-level indifference."

Reservists train once a month plus two weeks a year, not enough time to really maintain proficiency. Having served in the reserves myself I can attest to it. The soldiers of the 320th MP Battalion were poorly prepared. They were working 16 hour shifts in 120 degree heat, with few comforts or amenities. The stress of their conditions took a toll, and then they began receiving instructions from intel people who were under a stress of their own - the demand for actionable information now.

This does not excuse them; I mean, what's with the photos, really? However I've got to point out that all the soldiers named thus far were enlisted, ranging in rank from PFC to SSG. Those soldiers undoubtedly have a platoon leader, a company commander, a battalion commander. Officers. Where were they? I'm not talking about the abuse; I mean before that. When the battalion was assigned to an unfamiliar job, when they found themselves shorthanded (the NYT article points out that an MP brigade is normally expected to handle around 4000 prisoners; this battalion was in charge of 6000), when the intel people took over, were their officers trying to get them some help? Were they going to their superiors to tell them what was going on and what was needed?

I have two conclusions. First, somewhere in the chain of command, somebody failed these soldiers. And somebody needs to answer for that. Second, the soldiers that committed this abuse will at the least receive less-than-honorable discharges. When they do, I expect to see their officers receiving punishment right beside them. [UPDATE: that's really the same conclusion twice, isn't it?]

I am not, however, saying that the blame stops there. I've been a supporter of the war all along; at the same time I've felt that it should have started about six months later (I don't think I mentioned this on my blog). The events at Abu Ghraib add a new reason - time to plan and prepare.
Sorry, no blogging lately. I’m sure everybody was counting on me to pick up Instapundit’s slack.

Anyway, I’m just going to point out a couple things right now. First, Mrs. DuToit, regarding Den Beste. Be sure to check out the comments too; I was especially amused by the third one, from Lana of Live From The Guillotine (however alarmed I am at the title of her blog).
Second, via Lana, the Which Movie Should You Be In quiz. Go take it. My result?
The Power Rangers Movie!

Those of you who know me know just how appropriate that is.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Checking my referrers (because I'm so modest), I found a Google search for 'mnemonic code exchange.' Mnemonic code exchange? Mister Pterodactyl is seventh.
Warching Jon Stewart this morning. he had a story regarding the South Carolina constitution, which requires bars in the state to serve alcohol exclusively from minibottles (often seen on airplanes and in hotel minibars). Well, I googled it, and it's true! Ha!

"South Carolina retains the distinction of being the only state in the nation requiring bars to serve all hard liquor in minibottles. The minibottle's place behind the bar is even enshrined in the state's constitution." [Emphasis mine] The constitution was amended 32 years ago to include the requirement.

However, State Sen. Robert W. Hayes Jr., a Republican from Rock Hill, is leading the effort to change the constitution and let bars serve from regular bottles. Hayes "labels minibottles as impractical landfill cloggers. More important, he says, is that they contribute mightily to South Carolina's high rate of drunken driving deaths.
"A minibottle holds 1.7 ounces of liquor, and bartenders are obliged to pour all 1.7 ounces -- no more, no less. It may not look like much, but compared with the average drink size around the country -- which is 1 to 1.25 ounces of liquor -- it packs a wallop.
"Because (bartenders are) forbidden to pour a partial minibottle, a Long Island Iced Tea -- made of vodka, rum, tequila, gin and triple sec -- gets so big that it has to be served in a pitcher and contains 8.5 ounces of liquor."

Yowza. While Hayes' stand seems reasonable, I've got to point out one potential problem: what about the minibottle industry? What about all those elves and gnomes (I assume) that'll be out of work? Welfare payments will skyrocket! Circus performers everywhere will strike as a new labor glut causes their wages to drop! It'll be chaos!

No point. Just thought I'd mention it.
Monday, May 03, 2004
I was hopping around the ‘sphere when I came across somebody (okay, I forgot who) wondering why we’re not hearing more about the Proliferation Security Initiative. I’ve been thinking the same thing. So…

I found this, an interview with undersecretary of state (for arms control and international security) John Bolton. He says that PSI actions won’t be made public, at least not right away. And this, a lengthy and detailed description of PSI that says the same thing.
I suppose it makes sense; Don’t want would-be proliferators coming up with ways to avoid interdiction. Some successful operations would be great PR though, and I really want to know if they're having success.
There have been several training exercises at least, the latest just ending on April 22 and dubbed ‘Clever Sentinel.’ Follow the links on the Global Security site to see for yourself.

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Addendum to that last post: hey, how do you know 'planet sidna' isn't a disguised outpost keeping an eye on us? You want them to see us sitting on our butts?
Light blogging lately. I'm in a little bit of a rut.

That said, everybody remember the space probe that NASA sent out bearing a plaque? The plaque had a picture of male and female humans, a picture of the planets in the solar system with relative distances from the sun expressed in binary, and a two-dimensional representation of the locations (from our solar system) of 13 pulsars. I thought it was one of the Voyager probes, but haven't been able to verify which one and won't get to the library until tomorrow. Net searches have been fruitless.

Anyway, the plaque is the important part. If an intelligent alien race picks it up, they'll be able to find us via the information the plaque contains.

That's why we need to immediately shift the focus of our space program to the establishment of a permanent base on the moon. We don't want those ETs to come here and find a bunch of ridiculous backwater hicks, right? In the next couple days I'll be arguing for that and explaining my vision of how it ought to go.

And if anybody remembers the name of that probe, let me know. Please.

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